About 11 years ago, my mom had to stop practicing yoga asana.
The cancer in her bones was making her too weak to hold poses for any length of time.
It was a heavy time in our lives when we realized she had to give up her physical practice. Her practice meant so much to her and it gave her some peace when she so desperately needed it. I could argue that it was the beginning of the very far off end of her life.
She gave me her old purple sticky mat. You know, the thin mat everybody had before there was Manduka and Jade. The mat that was called “sticky” but kept you slipping and sliding throughout your practice, leaving your knees begging for some padding. That one. And I loved it. With her mat came years of blood, sweat and tears.
It was almost like she was giving me a piece of her soul when she handed me that worn down mat.
Starting with my next class, I was a two mat girl. I had my own purple mat, but used hers underneath mine for some padding and support. It became my own secret way of connecting with her. Each time I practiced I truly felt like her power, her strength, her integrity and her love were all radiating up from the floor and getting in my sidecar to accompany me on my journey.
The other secret about her purple mat is that I have never washed it, ever. “Ick,” you might say and I would agree. Washing it though means getting rid of years of work, years of love and years of her yoga/Buddhist energy that I can’t seem to part with. I know now it isn’t really in the mat like I am describing, but for a long time, I thought it was.
I eventually moved on from my purple mat, and now am on my fourth Jade mat. My mom’s thin purple mat, however, has stayed underneath my Jade all these years. Upon her death five years ago, keeping her mat safe underneath mine saturated by my own blood, sweat and tears, was about the only thing I could physically hold on to. Still, it has never been washed.
Grief is strange. You deal with it when you deal with it, not when everyone else in your life thinks you should. You have to be ready, but it is a crazy ride. Somehow, the five year mark of my mom being gone was significant to me and started a whole year of work on grief.
In February of this year, I gave up the purple mat. One day, grabbing my mats as I headed out the door to class, I quickly decided to leave her purple mat at home. It was a split second decision and the purple mat still sits exactly where I left it seven months ago, rolled up on a shelf in our garage.
I think about grabbing it some days, when I am really missing her and wishing I could call her and tell her something about my life. But then I realize she isn’t there, she isn’t in the mat, she is in my heart. As long as I keep the connection to her there, then there she will stay.
Lauren Wessinger, Fort Worth Texas, 35 years old, yoga teacher and mother. I am not my writing. I am not my yoga. I am not the role society has put me in. I am not my past. I am not my future. I am not my possessions. I am not my thoughts. I am not my doubts. I am not my desires. I am not my religion. I am not my politics. I am simply a human on the path, just like you.
Editor: Sarah Winner
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